The Perfect One Day in Pamplona Itinerary

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by Neota Langley

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Whilst this city is famous for the annual San Fermín festival (also referred to as the running of the bulls), there is so much more to see and do when planning a one day in Pamplona itinerary.

The capital of the Navarra region in northern Spain, just one hour south of San Sebastian, the city of Pamplona is packed full of mediaeval charm a lovely old town, breathtaking natural surroundings and traditional Basque food and wine.

This underrated destination is the very definition of a hidden gem. Pamplona is the ideal day trip destination for those looking for an off-the-beaten-path city in Spain.

How Many Days in Pamplona?

Pamplona is the perfect day trip from a Basque Country destination like Bilbao or San Sebastian, although if you had time to spare, you could easily spend several days exploring the city and its surroundings.

In one day, you’ll be able to get a real feel for Pamplona and visit all of the highlights. Discover the ancient past and see how it blends with the modern-day sophistication of the city. Bask in the sunshine at a local pintxos bar while watching the world go by.

One day gives you enough time to not feel rushed but if you did want to stay overnight and delve deeper, we have included some additional stops for your second day at the end of this itinerary.

Plaza del Castillo in Pamplona
Plaza del Castillo in Pamplona

Getting To & Around Pamplona

If you have a car for the duration of your trip to Spain, driving is the perfect way to reach the city. The drive is straightforward, within just over one hour south on the A-15, you will arrive in Pamplona.

You cannot drive into the city centre but there are several paid car parks on the outskirts where you can leave your car. You can browse car hire options here.

There are excellent public transport links between the cities of San Sebastian and Pamplona. The train is direct and affordable, taking around one hour. Even if you have a car, you may prefer to utilise the public transport network to remove the added cost of parking. You can check schedules here.

Alternatively, if you’re based in San Sebastian it is possible to take a full-day tour to visit Pamplona.

Pamplona is also the first Spanish city on the ‘French Way’ route of the world-famous pilgrimage, the ‘Camino de Santiago’.

Also known as the Way of St. James, this long-distance hike stretches for hundreds of miles, drawing pilgrims from around the world to traverse scenic landscapes and visit historic towns and cities on their journey to the shrine of St. James in Santiago de Compostela.

Once you have arrived in Pamplona, getting around is easy. The city centre is relatively compact, with most of the old town being pedestrianised. The best way to see the sights is to explore on foot, wander through the cobbled streets and out into the citadel.

If you think walking is too slow-paced, Pamplona is an incredibly bike-friendly city with dedicated bike lanes and a fleet of electric bikes available to hire from drop-off points across the city. 

Pamplona Town Hall
Pamplona Town Hall

1-Day Pamplona Itinerary

Whether you are visiting on a Pamplona day trip from San Sebastian or are passing through on a longer Spanish road trip, you will never forget your time spent wandering around this beautiful city. 

Citadel & Museum of Navarra

Our itinerary begins with a visit to the citadel and the ancient city walls. Located in the southwestern side of the city, the citadel was built in the 16th century as a military defence to protect the city from invaders.

Throughout Pamplona’s history, it has stood the test of time, seeing several battles and sieges across the centuries. 

Now, the citadel and the gardens that surround it are free to visit. Stroll around the perfectly preserved ancient moats, towers, bastions and barracks of this national monument before wandering alongside the city walls, stretching for 5km around the old town. 

If you are interested in learning more about the history of the Navarra, a short walk from the citadel you will find the Museum of Navarra. This converted hospital is home to a variety of artefacts, paintings, maps and mosaics. Entry to this museum is free and you can expect to spend between 1-1.5hrs wandering around the 4 floors. 

Citadel of Pamplona
Citadel of Pamplona

Plaza del Castillo & Café Iruña

Encircled by elegant buildings adorned with picturesque balconies, hanging plants and colourful facades, this iconic square serves as the city’s main gathering place and social centre.

The beating heart of Pamplona, the Plaza del Castillo is always full of life. You’ll find the modern section of the city to the south, glass storefronts housing high street retailers. On the other side of the square, you can find the cobbled streets of the old town. 

The square was originally built as a military parade ground but has evolved into the central hub of the city. At the centre of the square stands a charming bandstand, where live music performances and cultural events often take place. 

One of the most popular cafes on the square is Café Iruña, a popular destination due to its inclusion in Hemingway’s novel, The Sun Also Rises.

Published in 1926, this novel follows a group of young British and American expatriates as they meander along the Camino de Santiago from Paris to Pamplona to watch the running of the bulls. This book was instrumental in putting Pamplona and the San Fermín festival on the international tourist map.

Ernest Hemingway was known to spend many hours writing in Café Iruña. They have even added a statue of him at the bar, making it a must-visit attraction for fans of the author.

Monumento al Encierro & Plaza de Toros

The next stop on our Pamplona itinerary is centred around the annual San Fermín festival. This week-long fiesta commemorates San Fermín, the city’s patron saint.

The celebrations kick off with the “Chupinazo,” a thrilling opening ceremony where a rocket is launched from the balcony of Pamplona’s Town Hall, signalling the start of festivities. The festival started as a local affair but following the publishing of The Sun Also Rises, it has become a world famous event. 

Each morning at 8am, a group of seemingly unhinged souls participate in the iconic Running of the Bulls, sprinting away from a herd of charging bulls and steers. The course runs for 875m through the impossibly narrow streets of the city before ending in the bullring.

Beyond the adrenaline-fueled spectacle, the week-long San Fermín festival offers a range of cultural events, including traditional music, dance, and religious processions. The festival is controversial amongst animal rights activities and whilst not everyone agrees with the Spanish tradition, it is worth visiting the museum to learn about the history and develop your own opinion.  

If you are not visiting Pamplona for the San Fermín festivities in July, you can still learn about the event and walk the ‘run’ through the centre of the old town. Start at the large bronze sculpture depicting the running of the bulls, Monumento al Encierro, before heading on to the Bullring – known as the Plaza de Toros. 

There are several guided tours every day but if you miss them, you can still purchase a ticket and take an audio guide around the bullring and museum. The tour begins in the bullfighting arena, built in 1922. It is an impressive structure and can house up to 19,000 spectators.

From there, you continue on to the stables where the bulls are kept and a Bullfighter’s chapel. Along with costumes and artefacts from the bullfighters, you will hear audio from actual events and watch videos that give you an idea of what it is like to experience the sights and sounds of the true festivities. 

Outside the bullfighting ring, you will see another Ernest Hemingway statue. 

Running of the Bulls Statue
Running of the Bulls Statue

Old Town

The Casco Viejo or Old Town of Pamplona is a truly enchanting place. Mediaeval cobbled streets lead to vibrant plazas, old buildings with vine-draped balconies and local artisan boutiques. It is so peaceful and beautiful that it’s almost impossible to imagine a herd of bulls charging down these tranquil streets. 

You could easily lose yourself for hours in this rabbit warren of streets, shopping for souvenirs, grabbing a coffee and some churros and exploring the variety of stores. Wandering around this area is one of the best things to do in Pamplona.

Catedral de Santa María (Pamplona Cathedral)

On the edge of the historic town centre, just inside the city’s ramparts, you will find the Catedral de Santa María, which overlooks the Plazuela de San Jose. Dating back to the 15th century, its towering spires and intricate neoclassical façade make this late-mediaeval, gothic gem a worthwhile stop on your day trip to Pamplona.

Inside you will find a breathtaking Gothic cloister with detailed stonework, the 15th-century tomb of Carlos III of Navarra, stunning stained glass windows and ornate altarpieces. You can also climb up to the top of the bell tower for far reaching views across the city and out to the mountains on the horizon. 

Entrance to the cathedral itself is free but to visit the cloisters and the museum, there is a small admission fee. 

From the cathedral, take a short walk to reach the Mirador del Caballo Blanco in the Parque de Aranzadi. This is the best viewpoint in the city, overlooking the city walls, the Arga River and on a clear day, the mountains of the Navarran Pyrenees in the distance. 

Alternatively, wander over to the Jardines de la Taconera and enjoy the tranquil surroundings in this lovely city park.

Pamplona Cathedral
Pamplona Cathedral

Pintxos Crawl – Calle San Nicolás

The evenings are when Pamplona really comes alive. The Basque tradition of a ‘Pintxos crawl’ is an absolute must when you are in this region. 

Most bars serve just one type of Pintxos (small plates of local food, a little like tapas) and the idea is that you go from bar to bar, enjoying their speciality with a glass of wine or a ‘zurito’ which is a small beer – known as a caña elsewhere in Spain. Then, you move on to the next, repeating until you can no longer eat or drink any more. 

The main street for Pintxos crawling in Pamplona is the Calle San Nicolás which can be found right in the centre of the old town. This is an unforgettable experience so if you have time, it’s well worth trying out the local culture for the evening. 

Have More Time?

If you are lucky enough to have 2 days in Pamplona, there is plenty to see and do in the surrounding area. Whether you are an outdoor adventure enthusiast and want to explore more of the region’s natural beauty, delve deeper into Navarra’s culture or head to the nearby bustling capital of the Rioja region, Logroño.  

Urbasa Andía Natural Park

The Urbasa-Andía Natural Park is located just one hour’s drive west of Pamplona in the Navarre region of northern Spain. It is a pristine wilderness area renowned for its rugged beauty and diverse ecosystems.

This natural park encompasses dramatic limestone plateaus, deep gorges, lush forests, and meandering rivers making it the ideal destination for outdoor enthusiasts. One of the park’s most striking features is the Urbasa plateau, expansive grasslands and towering cliffs, offering breathtaking panoramic views.

Here you may also find an array of wildflowers, orchids, eagles, vultures, and wild boar. This area is also a birdwatcher’s paradise, with the opportunity to spot rare species such as the Egyptian vulture and the Eurasian griffon.

Urbasa Andia Natural Park
Urbasa Andía Natural Park

Navarran Pyrenees 

Pamplona is not too far from the Pyrenees mountain range that straddles the border between France and Spain. The Navarran Pyrenees form part of the Atlantic Pyrenees, taking up almost half of the northern section of the region.

Verdant valleys and rugged peaks, home to ancient ruins, cascading waterfalls, mediaeval churches and fortified castles. 

One of the highlights in this region is the village of Zugarramurdi or ‘the village of witches’. Steeped in mystery and legend, this village is home to the Zugarramurdi cave, a witchcraft museum and the Urdazubi/Urdax caves.

If you are interested in learning about the area’s connection with magical legends, this area makes for a thrilling day trip. 


After just 1 hour by car or 1.5 hours by train, you can travel from Pamplona to the vibrant city of Logroño. The capital of the Rioja region, you would be correct to assume this is a wine enthusiast’s dream destination. 

From here you could either opt to spend the day exploring the city or head out into the countryside to visit the local vineyards. 

Logrono is also a must-visit destination if you are looking for the best Pintxos crawl experience in the whole of Spain. San Sebastian is by far the most popular Pintxos destination but Logroño is a true hidden gem, offering the most authentic Basque experience.

Stone bridge in Logrono
Stone bridge in Logroño

Where to Stay in Pamplona

Hotel Europa – A cosy 3-star hotel in the centre of Pamplona, it’s located within a few minutes from the Bullring. There are plenty of clean and bright rooms and a great buffet breakfast each morning.

Pamplona Catedral Hotel – This grand, modern hotel is perfect for those after a luxury stay in this Spanish city, There are countless spacious and chic rooms on offer, a restaurant, bar, and fitness centre on site, and amenities like breakfast and parking available.

Aloha Hostel Pamplona – This hostel is an excellent budget option. Situated in the city centre, there are lots of dorms and privates on offer along with great common areas and a good social atmosphere.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Pamplona hotels!

Whether you are visiting for the San Fermín festival or prefer to wander the city streets in peace, spending one day in Pamplona is a delight, full of culture and natural beauty. It makes a great day out from a nearby city or, if you are on a road trip, you can spend several days exploring the region and all it has to offer. 

Are you planning to visit Pamplona? Have any questions about this itinerary? Let us know in the comments!

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Neota Langley

Neota is a writer for The World Was Here First. Born and bred in Cornwall, she can usually be found with hiking boots on, ready to embark on an adventure. For the last 6 years, she has travelled throughout Europe in her self-built campervan with her trusty canine companion, Ivy. She loves exploring France, the Nordics and spending time in Alpine destinations.

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